IMG_20130227_140532On February 27th, I made a choice to join with two organizations that are working to fight human trafficking – International Justice Mission (IJM) and End It Movement – in their social networking blackout.  Those who took part in the day disappeared from all social media networks as a reminder and in honor of the estimated 27 million people worldwide who are living in slavery.

Before you say, “What good did it do those in slavery to have a bunch of people stay off Facebook for a day?”  let me explain something.  The idea was a simple one – the 27 million or so who live every day in slavery do not have a voice.  They cannot express themselves to friends, family, and acquaintances on a whim.  They cannot rant about the slow service they experienced at a fast food joint or quote song lyrics just because they want to.  They live every day in terror, hoping to avoid angering those that own them.  (Some experts state that human trafficking is the second most profitable business in the world, second only to drug running.)  The blackout wasn’t about rescuing people.  It was to allow those of us who are free to have a small taste of what it is like for those who cannot speak whenever they want to whomever they want.

I jumped on the blackout bandwagon and told Twitter and Facebook “farewell” late in the day on the 26th.  When I woke up on the 27th, I was reminded of my pledge due to the fact that I had turned my background on my phone black.  It took me all of an hour to feel grumpy with myself for making the commitment to stay off of social media (I also chose to add social bookmarking so no Pinterest for me either).  And within seconds after whining to myself, I was slightly ashamed.  I am a free woman.  I have not been forced into either slave labor or sexual slavery.  My sisters, my daughters, so many young people I care about are safe and out of harm’s way.  27 million people in the world cannot speak for themselves AT ALL and I’m going to get cranky over a self-imposed social networking blackout?!?!

I learned something yesterday.  Actually, I was reminded of something yesterday.  I am blessed beyond what I deserve.  I have four healthy children who are NOT enslaved.  I am able to send messages to my loved ones whenever I choose and they are able to respond in like fashion.  I am more determined than ever to educate myself and others as to the tricks traffickers use.  I am more certain now than ever that I must speak up when I can, donate what resources I can, and take whatever action I can to increase our understanding of this epidemic and, hopefully, see it’s downfall in my children’s lifetime.  I may not be able to free all 27 million.  But I can do my research, find ways to financially support those on the front lines of the fight and I can PRAY.  How about you?

**Note about the photo – the necklace comes from The A21 Campaign as a part of their “Key2Free” annual project.  Check out the link for more information!

Free The Slaves

According to the information on their website – “Free the Slaves works with frontline partners in six countries.  We promote holistic, sustainable solutions that are developed by community members themselves.  We help communities assert their basic rights, and we share success stories so others can see what’s working.”

I just discovered this ministry and I am fascinated by their approach to freeing people from debt-based slavery. Many of the people they work with find themselves in slavery based on someone’s claim that the village owes a debt.  In most cases the debt was faked or has been paid off for years.  Free the Slaves starts with something simple – a transitional school for the children in these families.  The families insist that their children go to school rather than working.  From there, they teach the women skills that allow them to create a home-based business.  They encourage and assist the citizens in creating a network of support which begins to build a sense of confidence that enables people to move themselves to a place of independence.  The home-based business component is key because these families could find themselves falling back into a debt-based slavery situation if they are not able to take care of their financial needs.

The other component they deal with is supply chain economics.  Most of us, without even realizing it, purchase products that involved some form of slave labor to create it.  Technology components, cocoa and more have been clearly linked to slave labor somewhere in the world.  Free the Slaves contacts government officials to educate them about what works to discourage the use of slave labor and what doesn’t and to encourage them to demand corporate disclosure.  A recent law, which FTS refers to as the “conflict minerals rule“, requires companies that use a certain group of minerals – specifically tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold – to disclose where those minerals come from.  These minerals can all be found in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where slave labor is used to obtain those minerals.

Kevin Bales, author of “Disposable People”, believes that it is possible to wipe out slavery in the next 30 years.  But it isn’t going to happen unless everyday people get involved by contacting their government officials and demanding that we, as a nation, start taking action.  Bales has been quoted as saying that billions of dollars are spent combating homicide in American and a fraction of that is spent battling slavery even though more humans are enslaved every year than the number of people that are killed every year.

Check out the Free the Slaves website to find ways that you can get involved.

Yes, I’ve thrown a number of websites at you.  I have my favorites as do other members of my family.  Pick a website that really captures your attention and take steps to get involved.  I don’t care how you take a stand/make a difference/get involved just do something!!  There are 27 million people who desperately want to experience the freedom that you and I take for granted every day but they can’t achieve without our help.

I know how I intend to get involved.  I’d LOVE to hear back from some of you about what you are doing!

It's About Justice

• After drug dealing, human trafficking (both sex trafficking and trafficking for forced labor) is tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest criminal industry in the world today, and it is the fastest growing. (U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services)
• Worldwide, there are nearly two million children in the commercial sex trade. (UNICEF)
• There are an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 children, women and men trafficked across international borders annually. (U.S. Department of State)
• Approximately 80 percent of human trafficking victims are women and girls, and up to 50 percent are minors. (U.S. Department of State)
• The total market value of illicit human trafficking is estimated to be in excess of $32 billion. (U.N.)
• Sex trafficking is an engine of the global AIDS epidemic.(U.S. Department of State)

This is where the International Justice Mission comes in.  They go after the guilty and seek legal action against them.  They currently work in Bolivia, India, Cambodia and the Philippines and have freed more than 1,000 women and girls from the sex slave trade.  Our court system here in the U.S. may have it’s flaws, but there are others countries where the court systems are essentially useless because no one ever prosecutes the guilty.  IJM steps in and does what others don’t have the resources or the courage to do.  Human trafficking is about profit.  When you free the enslaved and prosecute the guilty, the risk goes up and the profitability is affected.

Hey students and teachers!  There are resources specifically geared at YOU that allow you to help IJM continue their work!!  Loose Change to Loosen Chains is just one of these programs.  IJM will provide you with specially designed collection cups and educational materials so you – teachers and students – can get your school involved in making a difference in the lives of those who have been bought and sold.    An article in Real Simple magazine stated that there is an estimated $10.5 billion (yes, that said billion) in loose change just lying around in American households.  Can you imagine the lives that could be drastically changed for the better if an organization like IJM got their hands on even a fraction of that?!  College students, you can create an IJM chapter on your campus. Check out the Get Involved page on the IJM website for more details and information

The statistics above are sickening.  There are times I wonder if the little bit I am doing is enough.  Then I am reminded that I am not alone.  There are others out there like me, modern day abolitionists who do what they can with what they have right where they are.  What about you?  Are you an artist who can use their creativity as a platform for educating those around you?  Are you a student who can start a Loose Change program at your school?  You may not be able to relocate to another country to work hands on with those who are in bondage or have been set free.  But you have a voice.  Are you ready to use it?

Focus – India

  • India has 25.7 million orphans, more than any other country in the world.
  • Girls as young as 7 are being forced into prostitution.
  • 30,000 girls are trafficked annually in India (that’s 82 girls per day!).
  • Child laborers in India who work in the silk industry get one day off per year.

Those statistics tear at my heart.  I have often said that every child in the word desperately needs to know that there is at least one person who is crazy about them.  To know that so many children in one country are alone saddens me in a way that I cannot adequately describe.

That’s why I’m so grateful to the men and women who work with As Our Own.  Their mission is to rescue children from certain enslavement and exploitation and provide aftercare in a family environment.  But they realize that merely dealing with the brokenness is not enough.  They are working with local churches and community leaders to educate and equip them to provide hope, counsel and encouragement to protect children from ever being in danger.

What can you do?  First of all, go their website and educate yourself.  Then take action!  Financial donations are always welcome, of course.  You can even choose which project will benefit from your gift!  You can become a part of the prayer team, dedicate proceeds from a garage sale and more.

It is not my purpose to overwhelm anyone with my recent intense focus on the issue of human trafficking.  But I know too much to simply shake my head at how tragic it all is.  I have three daughters.  In a different time or place, with a different set of circumstances, they could be trafficking victims.  I praise God that they have been spared!!  But there are other daughters/sisters/cousins/nieces who are living in what must feel like Hell itself.  For their mothers/sisters/aunts/cousins I must do what I can.

As I read and research, there are times it feels overwhelming and hopeless.  There are times I wonder if the little I can do is enough.  But I can’t stop trying if for no other reason than these words from Matthew 25:34-40

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Our Abba sees what these women are suffering and this principle from his word leaves no doubt in my mind as to whether or not I can throw up my hands and say, “I’m only one.  There’s nothing I can do.”

I can pray.  I have and will continue to do so.

I can write a note to a woman who has been rescued.  I have one waiting to go out in the mail.  (Check out this link for suggestions and an address – The A21 Campaign.

I can help educate those around me and encourage them to act with me.  I’m working on an idea right now and I’ll let you know how it plays out!

This is not a women’s issue.  Every one who claims the name of Christ is called to reach out to “the least of these.”  I’m ready.  How about you?

Repost – No More Turning a Blind Eye

This is actually a “repeat” post.  But it fit so well with my recent focus on human trafficking, I thought I’d share it again.  In the time since I wrote the original post, NightLight International has opened a third U.S. location.  Sad.

Imagine a culture where sons are expected to spend time in a monastery after each family death so that he can “make merit” and earn a life cycle in heaven for the deceased.  Those same sons are not expected to be loyal fathers or husbands and the law does not protect the wives and children that they frequently, with little or no excuse, walk out on.

What about the daughters?  They are expected to be the responsible ones, to provide for their parents as mom and dad age.  They can either bring the family prestige by fulfilling their familial duty, or they can bring the family shame by failing to provide.  No pressure!

Imagine this – a man decides he’s bored with marriage and walks out, leaving a wife and children behind. If she’s lucky, the jilted wife has a 12th grade education.  It’s more likely that her education is 9th grade or lower and she has absolutely no marketable skills so a job is going to be difficult to find.  In desperation, she and her children return to the village of her youth and move in with her parents.  Not only is she not providing for them, they are now having to take care of her and her offspring.  This is the ultimate in shame.

Now let’s imagine in that same village that there is a family who has a home with cement walls instead of wood and a tin roof instead of thatch, all of it provided by their daughter who is away in the big city.  This responsible young woman sends money and gifts home on a regular basis – even things like household appliances! – and has even come to visit once bringing with her a handsome, wealthy foreign man who was seen in the bar buying rounds for everyone.  This is a family that takes great pride in how well their daughter is providing for them.  She is a good daughter and brings honor to her parents.

The abandoned young woman is desperate to provide for her family so lavishly and turn their shame to pride.  So she does what the other dutiful daughter did and heads to the big city to get a job in the bar.  Her work responsibilities are simple and she knows exactly what she is getting into.  She needs to convince the men at the bar to buy her drinks (she has a monthly quota to fill) and she must convince a few of them to pay a $20 fee to the bar so that they can enjoy her company after hours (another monthly quota).  During her shift, she dances on a stage in a string bikini.  This is a woman from a culture that values modesty and she’s probably never even worn shorts in public before this and now she is displaying her body in a string bikini.  At an appointed time each night, she is ordered to remove her top.  The customers are supposed to tip her $40 after she has rendered the expected services.  If she makes her quotas and her customers tip her appropriately, a woman can make as much as $3,000 a month, most of which she sends home to her family who can then hold their heads up high because they have a “good” daughter.

I wish this was fiction, believe me. I wish that I wasn’t telling you about the actual cultural situation in Thailand.  This weekend, while attending a women’s conference, I had the honor of hearing Annie Dieselberg speak.  She and her husband Jeff and their kids are missionaries with the  American Baptist Churches to Bangkok, Thailand.  Their focus is getting the women out of these deplorable working situations.  But merely getting these women out of prostitution isn’t enough.  After all, they need to provide for their parents, remember?

NightLight ministries provides jobs, benefits, free child care, job training classes, leadership classes, Bible classes and a chance to make more than minimum wage and provide for their families.  No, it isn’t the $3,000 a month they would make prostituting themselves.  But it provides far more dignity and self-respect!

Lest you think this is a problem in another part of the world,  NightLight has three  branches here in the states – Los Angeles, California, Atlanta, Georgia, and Branson, Missouri (which just opened Fall 2012).  The fact that they are here in the states screams a truth that breaks my heart because their mission is the nearly the same as the NightLight “branch” in Thailand – rescuing women from sexual slavery.  True, the women here in the U.S. don’t usually walk into the situation with their eyes wide open like their counterparts in Bangkok.  But the degradation and hopelessness is every bit as real.

Yes, human beings are being trafficked right here in the U.S.  And I can’t simply sit back and feign ignorance.  I can’t “unlearn” what I learned this weekend and I have to get involved somehow.  Relocating to one of the cities where NightLight is currently working is simply not realistic.  But I have to find a way to get involved.  In my heart, it would be absolutely unacceptable to know what I know and do nothing.



27 million.  That’s a HUGE number to try and wrap your brain around.  And it’s the estimated number of humans currently being trafficked in the world today.  Some of them right here in America.

I never dreamed that in my lifetime there would be a need for a new movement of abolitionists to stand up and say “No more!!” But that is exactly the situation in which we find ourselves today.

So what can I do?  What can you do?  You can start getting involved, educate yourself, and take action.

The video above was created by the A21 Campaign in an effort to bring awareness to a grave issue and as an attempt to get people involved.  They have some very practical ways (21 to be exact) for you to get involved and begin to make a difference.

Can you send some personal hygiene items to a woman who has been rescued from slavery?  Can you write a blog, paint a picture, create a youtube video, write a song then share your work with your friends and tell them what “inspired” you?  Can you educate yourself?  Can you write a letter to a woman who is making her way out of slavery to let her know that there are people who care?  If you can, then you can be a modern day abolitionist.

This is an issue that has become very near and dear to my heart.  It began when I met a woman a woman several years ago now who had escaped slavery in California.  Yes, California.  She was an enslaved domestic.  She was such a dear woman and I have been slowly but surely educating myself since hearing her story.

A21 is just one organization trying to fight the darkness.  Stay tuned for information on other groups that have heard the call to rise up and fight slavery in our world.  Can we count on you?